Monday, December 19, 2005
Canton, Ohio man Clarence Elkins was exonerated last week from a life sentence for double rape and murder. The lead counsel in the Elkins case was Cincinnati CrimProf Mark Godsey and the Ohio Innocence Project, which he directs. Also representing Elkins were Jana DeLoach of Akron and pro bono attorneys at Squire, Sanders and Dempsey. Weil Gotshal and Manges of NYC helped on amicus. Three things about the Elkins case are unusual. First, the defense team exonerated Elkins by identifying the true killer through DNA testing. An indictment against the true perp is expected soon. Second, Elkins acted as his own detective, scooping up a cigarette butt abandoned by the primary suspect, who was a fellow inmate with Elkins, and mailing it off to lab for DNA testing (it matched the crime scene DNA). Third, the case resulted in a faceoff between the AG of Ohio, Jim Petro, and the local prosecutor who refused to release Elkins even after the DNA results clearly exonerated him. Petro's bully pulpit ultimately helped force the prosecutor to back off. Elkins spent 7.5 years in prison before being released on Thursday with all charges dropped. The case will be featured this week on A&Es "American Justice," Geraldo Rivera, Good Morning America and the CBS' Early Show, among others.